Family Visit

My family and close friend took the long trek out to New Zealand to come and visit me. It was cool showing them around the country I have fallen in love with, but I’m not sure they really had enough time in Wellington to experience all of the reasons why I love it so much. I flew up to Auckland to meet them and then we drove down to Rotorua and Taupo on our way down to Wellington. On the way back up to Auckland we stopped in New Plymouth and Waitomo. In Waitomo we went on a tour of the glowworm caves and it just happened to be a private tour because no other groups signed up for that time slot, which was pretty cool!

Presephanie, Joey, and I at the Weta Workshop Caves in Wellington

Once we made it back up to Auckland we flew over to Sydney where we spent the next 5 days. My favorite part of Sydney would probably have to be Manly Beach, only because it was gorgeous and we went on a really nice day. The Zoo was fun as well, but I was pretty gutted that we weren’t able to hold any koalas, just stand really close to them and get a picture with one. It is what it is, I suppose. Next time I’m back in Australia I’ll have to get my kangaroo selfie and cuddle a koala in Queensland.

Sydney Opera House

Presephanie and I tried kangaroo together for the first time, it was almost like eating venison. I found it to be quite tasty actually, maybe even better than steak since I didn’t have to pick around the fatty parts (they’re very lean animals). We also tried crocodile, it was almost like chicken but more chewy.

My kangaroo burger! It was actually really tasty😋

Semester Coming to an End

Uni finally finished for the semester, but that just meant that I had even less time to spend in Wellington, which is a big negative. I haven’t updated my blog recently because I’ve been busying trying to make the most of the remaining time I have on this side of the world!! Therefore, I will be posting a few things since I have time while sitting in the airport.

When I finished my exams I couldn’t have been happier because it was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders finally. Unfortunately Wellington has become pretty cold (nothing like New England winters, though), so I couldn’t enjoy the beach or anything like that. I still did heaps of exploring in my last few weeks there because I know I won’t be back for a while. I finally went to the local museum, Te Papa, and went around late at night to try and get some nice pictures of the stars. I also started doing some souvenir shopping.

Moa Point, Wellington

Moa Point, Wellington

I’m really happy because when the semester died down I was able to meet up with some of the employees from the Education New Zealand office and get coffee. Pip and I even went on a little shopping trip and they bought me a pounamu (greenstone) necklace as a thank you for being an Instagram ambassador for them! I was able to pick out a design that I liked and I went with the Koru because it represents an unfurling fern frond and symbolizes new growth, new life, lifelong friendships, peace, and tranquility. I have barely taken it off since! 🙂

Koru Pounamu

Koru Pounamu

It’s Not All Fun and Games

One thing that I didn’t really expect to happen when coming over here was everybody bothering me about how much fun I’m having and asking, “aren’t you there to study?” It’s actually rather frustrating when people think I haven’t been studying because I’ve truthfully been pretty overwhelmed with coursework the past month (and the month before break).

This weekend is a long weekend because of the Queen’s birthday. Many of the international students are spending it traveling, but I’ve been stuck at home with my flatmates writing essays instead. Break was the most fun I’ve had since being in New Zealand, because there was no stress–and hey, that’s what breaks are for! I guess I just wish people would understand that we are focusing on school over here. My flatmates and I are all getting these responses from people back in the states, and we all agree it’s pretty obnoxious.

Anyway, I guess it comes with the territory when people are jealous of the amazing experience we’re all lucky enough to get from being over here for so long!! I wouldn’t change any part of this trip for the world. I frequently say, everything happens for a reason, and I think the reason this has happened is to show me how ignorant some people can be. It actually is a good lesson to learn because it helps me to realise the type of person I don’t wish to be one day!

I guess I just had to share this so I can look back at it and laugh, remembering how stressful the schoolwork could be here in New Zealand. I know when I look back on this experience, the school work will be one of the last things I remember–except for my Māori culture and society course (or paper, as they would say over here), that one I will hopefully remember forever!

The Best Three Weeks of my Life

First I’d like to apologize for my lack of posting lately! I had one eventful weekend on the 27-29 of March (there was a festival in town called Cuba Dupa), and then I up and left on my three week travels around New Zealand with Kiwi Experience! I got to experience so much of what New Zealand has to offer over this break, it was easily the best three weeks of my entire life (so far). On the 29th of March I took an overnight bus up to Auckland, then at 8am I caught the Kiwi Experience bus from Auckland. I was nervous because I had no clue who anybody was on the bus and I didn’t know how the whole thing was going to play out. I went towards the back of the bus because it was empty and picked a seat. Looking back, I’m very happy with my seat choice because that’s the moment I met some of the people I would be spending the next three weeks getting to know! We formed a really great group of people from all around the world. There was only one other American, which I was super pumped about because I’m sick of being surrounded by all Americans in New Zealand. I met people from all over the UK and Europe!

Here is what my three weeks looked like: Auckland–Cathedral Cove–Hot Water Beach–Waitomo–Hobbiton–Rotorua–Taupo–Tongariro National Park–River Valley–Wellington–Picton–Kaiteriteri–Nelson Lakes–Westport–Lake Mahinapua–Franz Josef–Fox Glacier–Wanaka–Queenstown–Milford Sound–Lake Tekapo–Christchurch–Kaikoura–Wellington!

As you can imagine, it was quite an eventful few weeks! I was lucky enough to go blackwater rafting through the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, skydive from 15,000ft above the largest lake in New Zealand (Lake Taupo), tramp up an active volcano (also known as Mount Doom from The Lord of the Rings), take a pitstop at home and sleep in my own bed, swim in the ocean while watching the sunset in Kaiteriteri, swim in eel infested waters at the Nelson Lakes, dress up like my favorite animal (a pig) for the night in Lake Mahinapua, get up close (and even touch) the famous Wanaka tree that I wrote about in one of my scholarship essays (this was an extremely exciting moment for me), bungy jump off of the first ever commercial bungy bridge (Kawarau bridge–I even got dunked into the water which was awesome), eat a famous Fergburger in Queenstown, bungy jump off of the ledge overlooking Queenstown (it was snowing on the mountain, so the views weren’t great, but I got to bungy into the snow which was sweet as), do the AJ Hackett swing at the ledge (they say it’s the scariest because you have to actually pull the string yourself and let yourself go.. it was my favorite out of all my bungies), do the scary Nevis bungy (they take you to a secret place and you bungy into two large mountains), go to my first ice bar in Queenstown, take a cruise through Milford Sound (the weather was absolutely amazing, too), watch the sunset at Lake Tekapo, see some of the damage from the Christchurch earthquake (this was pretty sad), touch and play with some baby seals in Kaikoura, and get lost in a field full of sheep after playing with seals, and hitchhike unintentionally twice in Kaikoura!

Needless to say, it was the adventure of a lifetime. I owe my parents big time for helping me so much financially and making this trip possible!! It definitely helped me to realize that I enjoy being independent. Even though I made friends, I didn’t really have any one person to lean on in times of need or just when I got into a little funk, that was hard but really beneficial because it forced me to get into my own head a lot. I wouldn’t change the way this trip turned out even if I was offered money to do so! It was absolutely perfect.

Most of the original crew from the first day in Auckland--here we're at Lake Wanaka enjoying the sunset and a nice fire by the lake! :)

Most of the original crew from the first day in Auckland–here we’re in Wanaka enjoying the sunset and a nice fire by the lake! 🙂

Feeling At Home

This week has been super long with school work and everything getting hectic very quickly, but this weekend definitely made it all worthwhile! On Friday night I ended up having an extreme change of plans and attended a Pūrangiaho that the Ngāi Tauira (VUW’s Māori Students’ Association) put on. It was really supposed to be for Māori students, but somehow a few girls and I got invited to it and we decided to go (I’m not joking when I say we found out about it 45 minutes before it started). I’m really glad we went because we got to meet heaps of new people, and learn more about Māori culture (I find it extremely interesting, I’m constantly trying to learn more).

On Saturday I woke up with the exciting news that I got a job at home for the 2015-2016 academic year (it’s a promotion from a Community Advisor to a Senior Community Advisor, so I’ll have more responsibilities and help oversee a staff)! Then I ended up going out with my flatmate, Court, to a kiwi party (her friend Henry’s friends). This was really fun, and I got to make some new kiwi friends! The girls I ended up going into town with were really nice and they ended up showing me a bar that plays basically just country and American classics called Dakota. I could not have felt more at home for the quick amount of time that we were there! When you walk in you get a cowboy hat and they had American flags hanging up outside of the bar (I knew I liked it just from that alone). I also got my first picture taken at a bar, and it was actually a good picture, so that made me super happy! Then today (Sunday) I hung around the house and then went to my RA’s flat for an ice cream social tonight. After a long week, this weekend was exactly what I needed.

Feeling at home at a country bar in Wellington, New Zealand (probably the only one)!

Feeling at home at a country bar in Wellington, New Zealand (probably the only one)!

Gloomy Tramping

Today I went on an extremely long tramp with a bunch of other Uni Hall people. It was only supposed to sprinkle a little in the morning and then it was forecasted to clear up by noon (supposedly), but it was super rainy and foggy until around 2pm. It was an experience, to say the least. I definitely don’t recommend tramping so far and long in such bad weather, but I’m glad we did it because it was still great exercise and by the time it cleared up we got to see an amazing view on our way down! I already uploaded my pictures to Facebook because I was so excited about my day. Unfortunately, pictures really do not do this wonderful place justice, so nobody at home will ever truly understand the day I had. I’m feeling extremely tired, but also incredibly satisfied. According to my phones health calculator I’ve walked a total of 17.02 miles and done 28,494 steps today. That’s more than doubled what I typically do in a day! I don’t think my legs have ever felt more like Jell-O than they do at the moment.

After my super long day of tramping Belmont Regional Park I went down to the waterfront to enjoy the Southeast Asian Night Market. This particular market is only in New Zealand every two years, I just so happened to be here during one of the years! I had to check it out because of that factor alone! It was pretty cool, there was a ton of food (it took a lot of willpower not to pig out and spend money), some little shops to buy stuff at, and live entertainment! I’m definitely glad I walked the extra few miles to check it out with my flatmates. Now it’s currently 1:46am and I’m in desperate need of sleep for another long day tomorrow! It’s up bright and early to get to the weekly Sunday Farmers Market, then off to the beach for me! 🙂

The view on our downward tramp after the fog finally cleared up!

The view on our downward tramp after the fog cleared up! Pictures really don’t do the view any justice.

Nonstop Coughing

Everyone has been getting sick due to a mixture of traveling and constantly being busy, so it’s my turn now. It started with a runny nose, then the sore throat came, and now I can’t stop coughing (no fun). The worst part is the price of cough drops and medicine over here! I paid $5.95 for a bag of 22 cough drops and ended up borrowing medicine from my friend who got me sick (thankfully she was willing to share because I wasn’t about to spend $20 on cough medicine). Its almost midnight here and I know I need sleep in order for this cold to pass but the coughing is keeping me up, so I figured I’d blog a big to hopefully make me pass out. On the bright side, I’m finally learning not to waste things (like cough drops) and to use them when they are really needed!

On top of being sick I’ve been trying to plan out my break trip lately. I’m almost positive I’ll be missing a week of classes (oops) and going on a Kiwi Experience van all around New Zealand (the North and South Island) for 3 weeks! I’m super excited and I even bought a Camelbak bag for hiking, I’ve always wanted one but never really had a reason to spend that much (I got a nice one for 50% off, wahoo bargain shopping). I think what I’m excited the most about is that I’ll be going outside of my comfort zone and doing this adventure by myself. The main reason I’ve always wanted to study abroad is to really find myself, and I figured no better way to do that than to backpack a foreign country solo for 3 weeks! I’ll definitely meet people along the way, but it’s nice to know I’m doing this for me and nobody else. Just typing about it is getting me all excited!

I also finally went through the pictures from my camera today and uploaded some to Facebook! I’ve been meaning to do that for a few weeks now. It feels really good to be settled in here and finally able to catch up on little tasks like that (and blogging). Next comes reading for all my classes and starting my essays (they aren’t due for a few weeks, but I want to get a heads start on them to make myself feel better about missing a week of classes to travel). Well, it’s time for me to force myself to try and get some sleep without any distractions… Until next time! 🙂

Productive Sunday

Sunday is typically a lazy day for me, but today it has been extremely productive and I absolutely loved every second of it. This morning some friends and I met at my flat around 9:10am to head out to Island Bay to go snorkeling for free since it’s Seaweek! All we had to do was pay for the bus, which was only about $8 roundtrip with my Snapper card discount. Snorkeling was amazing, I’ve never done it before (unless you count in a pool, which I don’t). I didn’t see many things because it was kind of foggy from the rain yesterday, but I did see a few fish and I even got to get super close to one! After snorkeling they had some snacks out, including hot chocolate and Tim Tams, so of course we had to try our first Tim Tam Slams.. GAME CHANGER! To those of you who may not be aware, a Tim Tam Slam is when you bit each end of a Tim Tam and dip it in hot chocolate, then suck through and pop the Tim Tam in your mouth (can you say H-E-A-V-E-N?!), so tasty. We all agreed that Tim Tams will never be the same again without hot chocolate.

After getting back and showering Court (my flatmate) and I headed to Newtown for a festival that was going on today. We each had a goal, I wanted a tapestry for my room and she wanted a blanket for hers. We originally waited for the free bus, then we found out it was running late and decided to walk with 3 kiwi first year girls and one guy from California (we met them while waiting for the bus). According to Google Maps the walk was only supposed to be about 30 minutes, but it was actually closer to 50, oh well. Anyway, once we finished the dreadful walk, we finally got to the Newtown Festival and there were so many tents with different things to buy, food, and music. I was starving so I told myself I wouldn’t buy anything until I ate. We looked around for a bit and Court found a blanket, but held off on buying it, and I found food after. Once we were eating we realized they were closing down most of them tents other than some music ones so we quickly left our new friends and rushed back to the tent with the blanket that Court wanted.. Thankfully it was still there. After getting her blanket we were pretty satisfied and feeling accomplished, expect I still didn’t get my tapestry, so we kept looking while people closed down their tents. When looking we ended up seeing our new friends again and finding where the bus home was picking us up from, but we still had an hour so we continued looking around. After running to New World (the grocery store), Court and I decided to go down a side street where music was playing, and the first place we looked had the most perfect tapestry for me, which was only $25, so how could I not purchase it?! Now I’m currently typing this in my bed with my brand new tapestry hanging behind/next to me! 🙂 I couldn’t be happier, today was absolutely perfect.. And productive.

Syllabus Week

Things have been quite hectic since arriving in Wellington. Last week was o-week (orientation week) here at vic, so there was a lot going on. This week was syllabus week, also known as the first week of classes. It hasn’t yet hit me that classes are started back up because I haven’t had any work due, I also haven’t purchased any books because I’m in denial of how expensive they are and that it doesn’t make sense to get them online because with shipping prices it is pretty much just as expensive.

I went out to lunch with Sam and Amy from Education New Zealand on Wednesday of this week, it was really nice to meet Amy and catch up with them! I’m super excited to go to their office and meet the rest of the team, I’m so thankful for all of them. I also got to ride the Wellington Cable Car for the first time when going to meet up with them, that was cool as well. I’m actually looking forward for things to get settled and classes to really get serious this week because that means I can get into a routine finally instead of being all hectic constantly and not knowing what comes next. Hopefully my days start to settle down soon, but if not I can’t complain because I’m having the time of my life so far.

Hills Galore

Wellington is absolutely beautiful, I am in love with it. I was definitely the most nervous about my flatmates, but I love them all! There are two other girls and one guy (poor him), and we all seem to be getting along quite nicely. I’ve been doing a bunch of exploring of the city and it’s perfect. Everything is close enough to walk, and it’s gorgeous at the same time. I get the best of both worlds with the mountains and water plus the skyscrapers. The hills are definitely killer, but we all keep talking about how good it is for our bodies (it’s the only thing to get us through). Everybody is so nice, I’m loving every second of it. The one downfall would have to be the prices. I spent $30 on shampoo and conditioner which was definitely depressing, but hopefully I won’t need to buy anymore throughout my stay here. Food isn’t that bad, I just keep reminding myself that $10 is really only about $7.50 in the states. It’s definitely going to take some getting used to.

My room is kind of dull, so I’m working on getting some things to spice it up a bit and make it more welcoming. I was originally really upset that I wasn’t located in the houses because they seemed so nice online, but being here I’m pumped to be living in Waiteata (the apartments) because I not only get unlimited wifi, but an amazing view and I’m pretty close to everything! My flat has also been the meeting spot for everyone, so people are frequently coming over just to hang out, meaning I barely need to leave to see my friends (which is amazing for my laziness). I really want to get a beanbag chair for people to sit in, but it’s about $50 for that, way too much for only being here short term.

Things are going great, I couldn’t be happier. I registered for classes today and hung out with my flatmates at night, I honestly can’t be more excited for how much we’re getting along. I hope things continue to be this amazing, but then again I’m never going to want to leave if they do! I could seriously stay here forever, regardless of the extreme hills.. I’d get used to them.